Brussels, 20 February 2014
State aid: Commission approves agreements between Aarhus airport and Ryanair
The European Commission has found that agreements giving discounts on airport charges and marketing incentives concluded between Aarhus airport and Ryanair in 1999 did not involve any state aid. Indeed, these arrangements were expected to increase the operating profits of the airport. In providing these incentives, the airport therefore behaved as any market economy operator would.
Following complaints from SAS Group, in January 2008 the Commission opened an in-depth state aid investigation into agreements concluded between Aarhus airport and Ryanair in 1999 (see IP/08/48).
The investigation showed that the airport charges and incentives, including discounts on airport charges and marketing incentives, offered to Ryanair were granted on conditions that a private operator would have accepted in similar circumstances. In particular, the investigation revealed that before modifying the airport charges and concluding the agreements with Ryanair, the airport chose for the most advantageous and profitable alternative. This ensured that the charges and other arrangements with Ryanair did not distort competition because they were established at market terms.
Public interventions in favour of market actors that carry out economic activities can be considered free of state aid within the meaning of EU rules when they are made on terms that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions (the market economy operator principle – MEOP).
Today, the Commission adopted new state aid guidelines on aviation (see IP/14/172). The decision regarding Aarhus airport and Ryanair is fully in line with the principles set out in these new guidelines.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.18855 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.